Creative Writing for Reflection

Below is the abstract for the workshop I gave at the College of Occupational Therapists Conference 2012. Please also find attached the copy of my creative controversy blog post that I got people to use to develop ‘found poems’ and the Reflective Stories handout I used with short story and poetry examples from myself and others. Next week’s #occhat on Twitter will be on using creative writing to develop the ‘art’ of occupational therapy. See the post on the #occhat blog for suggestions of preparation.

Reflective Stories: writing creatively for professional and personal development, and wellbeing.


A recent conference paper (Clouston, 2011) highlighted the ‘occupational imbalance’ experienced by occupational therapists (OTs). With the increasing emphasis on Continuing Professional Development (CPD), since the introduction of the Health Professions Council’s audit cycle, this has further increased the perceived load on OTs. Consequently, engaging in CPD can be seen as a chore and reflective writing may be labelled as ‘academic’ work and seen as difficult to complete.

Using creative writing within reflective practice has been documented as, a method of ‘burnout prevention’, a way to ‘reset reality’ (Bradley Smith, 2008) and to release ‘inhibition’ (Nicholls, 2009). One study also suggested that students who engaged with the arts demonstrated more ‘active learning, risk taking, and greater capacity in approaching difficult concepts and problems.’ (Thomas and Mulvey, 2008). Bolton (2010) suggests writing stories can enable access to deeper levels of meaning than writing abstract accounts of an event, because we move from ‘being clever and into being open’ (p.92).

Using two short form writing activities (found poetry and flash fiction) participants
will be introduced to techniques from the literary arts that can enhance their professional development. Ideas such as ‘show not tell’, use of metaphors,
developing characterisation, and so on, will be discussed.

The use of creative writing in reflective practice is proposed as a method that can
be used to enhance professional development and practice to the benefit of service users and colleagues but also as a method of stress reduction and restoring balance to improve our own wellbeing.

Bolton G (2010) Reflective Practice: Writing and professional development, 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage.

Bradley Smith S (2008) This syvlan game: Creative writing and GP wellbeing. Australian Family Physician. 37(6), 461-462.

Clouston T (2011) Worked out and still wanting: finding balance in busy lives. In: Plymouth University (2011) Owning Occupation International Occupational Science Conference. 8-9 September 2011. Plymouth, UK. Plymouth: Plymouth University.

Nicholls S (2009) Beyond expressive writing: models of developmental creative writing. Journal of Health Psychology. 14(2), 171-180.

Thomas E and Mulvey A (2008) Using the arts in teaching and learning: building student capacity for community-based work in health psychology. Journal of Health Psychology. 13(2), 239-250.


Any comments or feedback please leave me a comment – thanks.

Posted on August 9, 2012, in #am writing (and all things writing related), Occupational Therapy. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

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